With the start of the 2011 AMA Supercross Championship less than a week away, the fan waves are churning with predictions for the series and a much-anticipated Anaheim I. If the 2010 season showed its fans anything, be sure expect the unexpected when that gate drops on Jan 8, 2011 in Calif.
At least four heavyweight SX contenders will be entering the premiere 450 class this weekend, and outside of gazing into a crystal ball, there is no clear cut way to predict a victor. Let’s have a look at some of the 2011 Supercross favorites.
Ryan Dungey – Rockstar Makita Suzuki
2010 was a great year for Dungey. Marking off a Supercross Championship during his rookie season, (a feat shared only by Ricky Carmichael), nabbing a motocross title, and also a win for his role on Team USA at Motocross of Nations, Dungey dominated the track.
So, why not assume that Dungey has this next season in the bag? For starters, all 3 of Dungey’s main competitors, James Stewart, Chad Reed and Ryan Villopoto, were dogged by injuries and unable to complete the 2010 series. Some would argue that if those three had stayed in the game, the outcome may have been different.
He has also been known in the past, for making costly mistakes when put under serious pressure. However, all arguments aside, it is undeniable that Dungey is talented and he is the defending champion. The cold brunt of reality is that his previous competitors may no longer be able to keep up with him.
Of course, with Dungey being the reigning champion, he doesn’t have to prove himself to be better than the rest right now. It is all of the other riders that have to prove that they are faster than him.
James Stewart – San Manuel Yamaha
James Stewart may very well be the biggest question mark coming into this year’s season opener. After crashing with his long-time rival, Chad Reed, in the Phoenix leg of the 2010 supercross, Stewart suffered a broken wrist causing him to withdraw from the series.
He managed to partially race at Unadilla for the outdoor series but then withdrew for the remainder of the series to fully heal his wrist. In previous years, there has been no denying that Stewart is a whole other level of fast. No other rider, excluding Ryan Villopoto, has been able to beat him without him going down first.
What everyone wants to know about Stewart is if he is still that same machine after taking a year off from racing. He admitted in an episode of his reality show, Bubba’s World, that he no longer possessed the same motivation to win Supercross as he had in the past. Of course we could simply chalk that up to dealing with being sidelined for an entire season.
There are certainly many doubts about his stamina and drive coming into this first race. One thing is for sure; all eyes are going to be on JS7 come Anaheim I. Will he come back harder than ever or will he fall back to the pack?
Chad Reed – Team Two Two Honda
Love him or hate him, one can’t deny that Chad Reed has an impressive racing career under his belt. To keep a long list of achievements short, he is a two-time supercross champion is also third best on the all-time history books.
Having to withdraw early on from last years series after suffering injuries from a crash with James Stewart, he also pulled out from the outdoor motocross series due to a bout with Epstein Barr. Toss in the fact that he is now a first-time privateer, running his own team, and Reedy definitely has the cards stacked against him.
However, if there’s one thing that Reed has proven throughout the years is that he is tough, he is tenacious, and he is unwaveringly confident if not downright cocky. Reed believes he will take home the championship and that he is back to 100%. Remember the adage, mind over matter, folks? He may be coming in an underdog but don’t count him out just yet.
Ryan Villopoto – Monster Energy Kawasaki
If the AMA gave awards for the biggest, "What if," of the season, then Ryan Villopoto would be their man. After being forced to withdraw out of the 2010 season due to a vicious crash resulting in a broken leg, many were left to wonder if the season might have seen a different champion.
In races past, RV has proven that he can lead the pack and pass the best of them. Literally. He is currently the only rider to ever beat James Stewart while Stewart has remained on two wheels and even took seven wins away from Dungey during last years series.
On the downside, he has had his fair share of off races as well as injuries. All things considered, RV is said to be back in great shape, with a healed leg. Dungey may have to put up one hell of a fight to hold on his to title if RV follows through this season.